Walking Tour of Palermo, Italy
The largest city on the island of Sicily, because of its geographical location, has been a cultural crossroad for over two thousand years, and this is reflected in the blend and variety of architectural styles found here. The city also boasts one of the most energetic and enthusiastic passeggiatas, an evening stroll along city streets.
My walk starts at the Quattro Canti, the intersection of two of Palermo’s main thoroughfares, Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda. The small plaza at the junction is called Piazza Villena.
Walk south on Via Maqueda and into the square on your left, Piazza Bellini. On this plaza there are three significant churches. The incredibly unusual Santa Caterina is a kaleidoscope of colors and sculptures. Beside it is another square, Piazza Pretorio, which contains an amazingly elaborate fountain (residents were horrified when it was first unveiled, because of all the nude figures). Also on the Piazza Bellini is La Martorana (Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio), with Norman, Greek, and Islamic influences. It dates to 1140 AD. San Cataldo, with its scarlet, Byzantine domes, was built in 1154.
Now continue south on Via Maqueda, and then turn right on Via del Bosco, which soon becomes Via Albergheria. Turn right on Via dei Benedettini to find San Giovanni degli Eremiti. More Islamic domes grace this 12th century structure, since it was a former mosque. Stroll around the gardens, found near the ruins of the monastery cloister.
At the end of this street is the Palazzo Reale, still used by the Sicilian Parliament. Some of the opulent palace is open to the public, so be sure to visit the Palatine Chapel, with its glorious mosaics, and the Sala di Ruggero, one of the royal apartments which has hunting scene murals on the walls. Next to the palace is the interesting Porto Nuova.
Leave the palace and turn right on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Ahead, on your left, is the Duomo, an obvious mix of many architectural styles. It contains the tombs of many Sicilian kings.
Turn left, just past the Cathedral, on Via Colegio Giusino, and then left on Via del Celso, and then right on Via Beati Puoli, which becomes Via Porta Carini. At Via Volturno, turn right to reach the Teatro Massimo, the largest theater in Italy. It was patterned after Rome’s Pantheon.
Leave this piazza by walking east on Via Bara Alf’ovella, across the Via Roma, and straight ahead to the Salinas Regional Museum of Archaeology. It contains some excellent pre-historic artifacts and also some vestiges of the Greek colony which existed here, some 2,500 years ago.
Next, walk south on Via Roma, and then turn left on Via Valverde to see the Oratorio di Santa Zita, a chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary. Walk south from the chapel on Via Bambinai, which leads to the Oratorio del Rosario di San Domenico and the church of San Domenico. The chapel is particularly beautiful. The area around this church is known as the Vucciria Market, a fascinating labyrinth of streets containing numerous stands, selling all types of foods (best in the morning).
Now, work your way south, to emerge on Corso Vittorio Emanuele, and then turn left, then right on Via Pappagallo, and then left on Via Alloro. The Palazzo Abatellis and Galleria Regionale di Sicilia is on your right. This 15th century palace combines Spanish Gothic and Italian Renaissance elements. Continue west on Via Alloro and turn right onto Via Torremuzza, which becomes Via Nicola Cervello, and leads to Via Abramo Lincoln and the Villa Giulia, with its lovely gardens. From here turn left on Via Abramo Lincoln and then right on Via Carlo Rao, then left and a quick right to the Piazza Magione, where the Norman church, La Magione, sits. Leave the square and walk north on Via Castrofilippo, and then turn left on Via Alloro, and right on Via Alessandro Paternostro, which leads to Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Turn left to return to the Four Corners (Quattro Canti) where the walk began.